On Thursday, Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives confirmed their support for Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar’s reelection in 2024. This is a dramatic turnaround from the 2018 midterms, when Cuellar was mostly ignored by his party’s senior officials.
On top of the two former leaders who scaled back their support for his 2022 race, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the list of those endorsing Hakeem Jeffries includes Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), and former Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.
Henry was last year’s intended target of the extreme MAGA Republicans. Jeffries said in a statement, “Together, we will reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives because the people of South Texas sent him back to Washington with a resounding victory.”
After being shunned by his own party in 2022, Cuellar, the last anti-abortion Democratic incumbent, faced the largest challenge of his career in the form of a progressive primary opponent. Cuellar had the Democratic financial support shut off for him weeks before the primary after an FBI investigation hit him. The two senior Democrats in the House avoided visiting Laredo, Texas, the location of his political base along the border with Mexico.
Cuellar managed to weather the storm, and he’ll be taking the offensive in 2024.
For more than a decade, Cuellar had not faced a serious challenger until progressive Jessica Cisneros appeared in 2019. A number of newly invigorated progressives, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saw his position as their best chance to shift the Democratic caucus to the left if he were to leave office.
They were almost right in the end. In an election that was largely defined by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Cisneros came within 289 votes of dethroning the “King of Laredo.” Cuellar’s victory and subsequent strengthening of his position demonstrates that his party’s emphasis on abortion rights does not resonate with voters in every swing district, especially those in Catholic-heavy south Texas.
The fact that Cuellar is still in office demonstrates that the influence of incumbency in elections is declining but still significant. And it’s a huge boon for Democrats hoping to retake the majority in the next midterm elections.
Not only has there been no talk of a strong Republican contender in his purple seat, but there have also been no indications of a credible progressive challenge against Cuellar in the upcoming election year. Cassy Garcia, the Republican party’s crown jewel in the previous election cycle, had the support of her former boss, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R). Cuellar crushed Garcia with a 57% to 43% victory.
Only first-time candidate Kyle Sinclair has filed to run against Cuellar in 2024, and he has only raised $18,306 so far this year. During that time, Cuellar made $971,638.
Republicans are likely to focus their efforts in two neighbouring districts: Texas’s 34th, where they hope to oust Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, and Texas’s 15th, where they hope to protect Republican Rep. Monica De La Cruz.